Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Time of my Life...

Seguing neatly on from my last post (and ignoring temporarily how long ago that was), if you didn't see Paddy and Keith's brilliant take on Dirty Dancing on Let's Dance for Comic Relief last night, let me share the joy of it with you here.

They even did THE LIFT!!!! And the second time they did it properly!!!

I missed last week's episode, but thanks to Marie did see Robert Webb's hilarious Flashdance spoof. I can't quite decide which one I liked more, but I share the joy of Robert Webb too. Priceless...

I have had difficulty
a) explaining to the kids that Paddy and Keith really really aren't gay
b) yes Robert Webb is a man...

Can't wait to see what they all do in the final...

Friday, 9 January 2009

Nobody puts Baby in a Corner

I somehow managed to miss Dirty Dancing when it came out. What can I say? I was in my final year at university, and it seemed like a teenybopper romance film that wouldn't appeal to me. It was several years later when I worked with someone who was obsessed by it that it dawned on me that somehow an iconic moment in cinema history had passed me by. It still wasn't enough to get me to watch it though, as it's certainly not my husband's kind of film (Crap scifi and slasher/gore are more his thing), so I had it down as One To Watch With The Girls, which of course meant I never got round to it. I nearly saw it a few years ago when my salsa teacher recommended it to help us practise our moves. I duly borrowed it from a friend who is nigh word perfect on the script, and it sat on the side by the tv unwatched for weeks because I didn't have time, and in the end I gave it back to my friend without having seen it as I had visions of one of the children spilling juice on it.

When I was researching Strictly Love though, I bought a whole load of dance movies, Grease, Fame, Strictly Ballroom, and Dirty Dancing. Now was surely the time to make up for this gap in my film education.

I have to say I was completely taken by surprise by the film. I thought it would be a very sappy teen romance that I could happily have shown the children, and was gobsmacked to discover the storyline features abortion. (I still haven't let the kids watch it). I'm not a huge Patrick Swayze fan, and the name "Baby" makes me puke, but actually, though you do think this is a summer romance that is never going to last, there is a lot to like in this film. The dancing is fabulous of course, but I also do like the character of Baby who stays to true to her principles even though it costs her dear. It is also quite interesting about prejudice and people taking certain situations for granted.

So... there's a lot more to it then I imagined, and of course it also has that brilliant dance scene at the end when Baby finally manages the Lift. As a semi ironic joke I dedicated Strictly Love to my husband with the words, I owe it all to you, which my mother took seriously, having never seen the film. She thought it was a lovely sentiment, and after giving it consideration and taking away the cynical head which says Time of my Life is pure tack, I think I agree. Dirty Dancing is all about people loving one another and supporting each other whatever life throws at them. And as a romantic novelist, how can I gainsay that?

So when I was kindly offered free tickets to go and see Dirty Dancing the Musical by the very kind people at Arthur Leone pr company, I was delighted to take them up on the offer. Besides, it's not EVERY day someone gives me some free theatre tickets (and having just spent a small fortune on Oliver! tickets, such generosity is certainly not to be sniffed at in these credit crunch times...) Obviously I couldn't take my other half who'd be deeply unappreciative, so I asked my Dirty Dancing loving friend along instead, which came in rather handy as she remembered more of the plot then I did.

Now I'd love to say that Dirty Dancing the Musical was as much fun as say, Mamma Mia! which I've seen twice, but unfortunately I don't really think it is. For a start the script is slavishly close to the film (according to the DDLF anyway), whereas the film and stage show of Mamma Mia! are rightly two very different beasts.

The film (and stage show) starts with Baby and her family en route to a holiday camp. The film starts with them in a car, listening to music, and on stage, this has been converted to a stage car with scenery running behind it. Hmm... That just didn't work for me. Neither did most of the set, which revolved, and had bits popping out of the floor in a manner I found most distracting. Apart from worrying everytime the dancers were dancing on the revolving floor, I kept losing track of who was saying what and where because my eye was caught by some inappropriate bit of scenery going up and down for no apparent reason.

I also had a huge problem with the chemistry between the leads, in that for me there wasn' any. (And here I'm going to be horribly vague, as we forgot to buy a programme so I am not sure of anyone's names.) When Johnny danced with Penny the world lit up, but when he danced with Baby (and yes of course at the beginning she can't dance), I just didn't feel there was any chemistry at all.

Also oddly enough, for a musical about dancing, there didn't seem to be nearly enough. And for a stage show that was meant to be a musical, there wasn't enough singing.

I don't think this is the actors fault, but a fault of the show itself, which is trying to replicate the movie so accurately (maybe rightly - perhaps this is what Dirty Dancing fans want, although my DDLF was underwhelmed. Mind you, she did say it was partly because Johnny was too "clean".) that it forgets to be a musical.

Having said all that, the dancing when it happened was stunning. And the end of the show was really spectacular. In fact, I could have done with lots more of Billy's singing (the actor playing him had an AMAZING voice) and everyone dancing and less of the silly sets, and people aimlessly wandering on and off just because that's what happens in the film.

There also was a fantastic moment right at the end when everyone was anticipating Johnny's return and he suddenly burst through the audience uttering the iconic line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner", which clearly all the proper Dirty Dancing fans were waiting for as the theatre exploded. And then so did the stage. Suddenly it was rocking with life, and I felt like I was watching a completely different show. The Lift of course was brilliant, and again you could tell the DD fans were gagging for it. And the encore was also great, leaving me wishing that the whole show had had as much energy. (I dunno, maybe the cast were too worried by the revolving turntable to dance their hearts out earlier).

So... An enjoyable evening. Probably a must if you're a Dirty Dancing fan. But was it as good as the film? No I don't think so...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

It's the Final Countdown...

Or rather it was.

You may or may not have noticed I didn't get round to posting about last week's Strictly Show. This was partly due to lack of time, and partly because I thought the whole voting debacle was a pile of crap. It was so patently obvious that they wanted three couples in the last show. It was also patently obvious that the maths didn't add up to make Tom able to go through. Why they couldn't have just dispensed with last week altogether I don't know. None of the dances rocked my boat particularly, but I thought Tom deserved credit for attempting a jive when the girls played safe with ballroom. Yes, yes, yes, I'm sure technically they were much better, but hell Tom's jive was so much more fun.

Anyway. Onwards and upwards as they say.

I have to confess that despite thinking I had lost total interest in this year's competition since Austin went out, I thoroughly enjoyed last night's show.

Rachel's foxtrot was pretty flawless. Did it deserve forty points? Not sure. They seem to have given out tens likes smarties this series but when I watched the previous champions dancing together I thought not one of the finalists was a patch on any of them (except possibly Darren Gough).

Tom and Camilla's clearly wasn't as good technically (I still think it's harder for the bloke - if you're a crap dancer and being led by a professional, that has to be easier, doesn't it?), but I just loved his style. So I think the judges were a bit harsh myself.

Lisa and Brendan's was lovely to watch, but I found it strangely uninvolving. I know, I know, she made the best improvement overall, but I couldn't help feeling the judges were marking her ridiculously high to make up for the fact that the public were clearly voting for Tom Chambers.

Moving swiftly over the return of the previous contestants (who reminded us all why they went off so quickly), I did enjoy Rachel and Vincent's rumba, but I couldn't quite rave about it as much as the judges did. Tom's samba was a lot of fun - again - and Lisa's Cha Cha Cha may have been technically improved from last time, but didn't do anything for me.

I think losing Lisa at this point was the right call. I still can't understand why the judges saved her at the expense of Austin, who by rights should have won this. But hey nonny nonny no, the Great British Public do occasionally get it right...

I'd also like to point out here (in the absence of Marie as she is on holiday) that some weeks ago she pointed out the similarity of Rachel Stevens' brothers to the Mitchell boys - Tess, you're just too slow...

The second wave of returning dancers reminded us what we lost in terms of fun from Mark Foster (yes, we were right, he really was that bad), Heather Small (who was much better last night then on any of the shows. It must have been nerves), Cherie Lunghi (who was as good as I remember, but I am still irritated that she and James were such poor sports) and John Sergeant, who was just as much fun as I thought he was.

The third wave just made me a) wonder again why oh why did Christine last so long?, b) miss Jodie and c) wish I could have seen a final with Austin in it.

I thought it was very nice they gave Lisa an opportunity to do her show dance, but it confirmed for me that yes, she really should have been in third place.

Now all the way through this competition, I haven't really got Rachel. I think she dances beautifully, but she lacks emotion somehow. I have to say that in her show dance, for the first time I thought she really came alive and lit up the floor. It was wonderful to watch, and I was convinced she had it in the bag. The judges seemed to be so down on Tom, and technically he clearly can't compete with Rachel.

But then.... Oh then... Tom and Camilla produced the most hilarious witty, entertaining show dance. It was fantastic. The return of the penguin. And with so much style...Tom leapt and gurned his way around the stage, looking as if he was having a blast. I laughed the whole way through it. If there were people wavering, I think that dance won him the competition. It was fabulous.

While they filled in time we also got to see the returning champions's show dance, which was great fun, but also Kristina and alien faced Brian (as Marie calls him - and in Marie's absence I feel duty bound to keep the faith) did an amazing Cha Cha Cha to Duffy singing Mercy, which I can't unfortunately find on You Tube.

But here for your delectation and delight are firstly Rachel and Steven, who were fabulous too.

Just not a patch on Tom and Camilla. Worthy winners in the end...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


We've finally lost boring Christine. Do you think that the judges were getting their revenge for not having had the opportunity to vote John Sergeant off?

As I had a manically busy weekend, followed by my pulling my back out yesterday I've only had a chance to catch up on the dances on the SCD website.

From what I saw I think it was Christine's time to go. Didn't think much of either of her dances. Can't say Lisa wowed me that much either, but the judges seem to like her.

Tom's samba was every bit as camp as Bruno said it was, and I liked his waltz, but I thought Rachel's and Vincent's was better.

Laughed out loud at Rachel and Vincent's paso doble. Might have known Len would object to the cloak. But it wasn't a patch on Austin and Erin's which oled all the way to being the best latin dance of the series I'd say.

I think Austin has to win it, for overall consistency and sheer entertainment value, but I'm really not sure who should be in the final with him. I think for dancing ability it should be Rachel, but the judges seem to really like Lisa for some reason I can't fathom, and Tom when he hits a high really hits it. But I suspect he isn't quite good enough. So my money is on it being Austin FTW and Lisa in the final, but then again, I've been dead wrong before.

And if like me you're suffering from a maniacal life at present, and haven't seen Austin and Erin's paso doble, here it is in all it's glory.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Oh No!

Now that Jodie's gone, who do I vote for?

I thought it was a real pity that she went last night because not only was her jive highly entertaining (and boy did we need some entertaining on Saturday night - I thought it was a peculiarly flat and odd show myself), she was clearly so ill she hadn't had much time to practise. But hurrah for Jodie she was dignified and gracious in defeat even though her dance this week was much better then Christine's. Do you think all John Sergeant's The One Show voters have switched allegiance. Now WOULDN'T that be funny? They can't vote for John but they vote for Christine who'll end up winning because she's the closest the public can get to voting for John.

Mind you, that wouldn't be right would it, because once again I found her dance bland and dull -was it the cha cha cha? (see I don't even remember). I also found Lisa's quickstep bland and dull. And Rachel's foxtrot was lovely but full marks??? I don't think so. Are the judges proving a point do you think? See, public you wanted an old man who couldn't dance, but we're going to inflict another young beauty who can for the final...

Jodie's jive, I thought was great. Tom's tango less great. But the dance that made my night was Austin and Erin's cha cha cha which was fun and cheeky and ENTERTAINING. Got that judges? We like being entertained. You clearly didn't because they got an unremarkable score, and I was worried they were going to end up in the dance off. Anyway, they lived to fight another day and my money is now on them and Rachel and Vincent for the final. I think I want Austin as he's shown the most consistency through the series, and while I like Tom I don't think he's quite as good as Austin. Mind you having said that in the group dance Tom and Austin both shone and the girls just looked limp and decorative - but I think that's probably the fault of Arlene's choreography. Is it just me or do you think there is something pervy about the way she leches after younger men - can you imagine the furore of Len did that to Rachel? (Can you tell I have really really gone off Arlene?)

Finally of course we got to say goodbye to John, which was touching and sweet, and I so love Kristina who is charming and beautiful and has a wicked sense of humour and deserves a really great dancing partner next year. But boy oh boy, did you notice how po faced Arlene looked? And the judges were the only ones who didn't stand up. Miserable so and sos. I was in hysterics when John thanked them for their help in allowing him to stay in the competition - Arlene's face was a picture. In case you missed it, I leave it here for your delectation and delight. Strictly is just not going to be the same without them.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Strictly Crap

I don't normally watch It Takes Two given that it's on when I'm either hoiking children round town to various activities or cooking their tea. But last night I wanted to see what John and Kristina had to say, so I left the dinner cooking and sat down (in between settling disputes between the ten/six year olds and filling in the husband on what had happened when he came in) to watch.

I really wanted to know what persuaded John to step down - my gut instinct says he's not the type to be bullied. It seemed clear to me from watching last night, that he had just got fed up with the media storm, which had taken the fun out of if for him.(Caused in no small part it has to be said by the likes of Arlene who was told Breakfast News on Monday that "When [other celebrities] put hours in the practice studio they are constantly working. They do not sit down, and I know with John, he sits and reads the Guardian. A lot of time he and his dance partner spend fooling around." , and was busy telling Jeremy Vine on Monday lunchtime John shouldn't still be in the competition.)

It strikes me that as well as being a perfect gent, John Sergeant is fundamentally also a very kind person, and it clearly bothered him that other people were getting stressed by the whole thing, and that he was uncomfortable to have got through on Saturday when Cherie didn't. I suspect that too, had something to do with his decision.

However, while I'm not sure about the whole bullying thing, I do agree with Marie, that facing a choice between people being rotten to you and going on a cruise, most of us would opt for the latter. And judging by the incredible bitchiness James (and to a lesser extent Anton and Kate Garroway) displayed when interviewed after him, I don't blame him. James was full of venom, spitting out malevolently that this "wasn't the John Sergeant show" - no, and I don't think for one moment John Sergeant thought it was either. Unlike James, he clearly has no ego to speak of, and was diplomatically getting out of the way so that other better dancers don't get voted off this week and he has to face the whole barrage of criticism again. I think sometimes the story gets too big for the person (I'm thinking here not just of the recent Brand/Ross nonsense, but also the whole Angus Deayton debacle a few years ago) - and John Sergeant recognising this decided to get out while the going was good. He's done so, as he's done everything in this show, with gravitas, dignity, and not inconsiderable wit. I love him more then ever (and can't wait to do the rewrites to my Christmas book so I can polish up my character into proper John Sergeant twinkly lines).

Everyone else (with exception of Claudia Winkelman who was flounderingly trying to get her interviewees to be more positive, and Brucie who just looked confused) who appeared on It Takes Two last night looked small minded, mean spirited and downright pathetic in comparison. For Arlene to say that she was "sad" he'd left and he should have stayed, and for Craig to call him a coward was breathtakingly hypocritical. I believed Len the most, even though he was pictured on Saturday moaning about the result.

And let's not forget that Len and Arlene the two oldest judges in the competition have been outrageously rude about John Sergeant's age. We all know it's a competition where the young and beautiful have more hope of winning. This time around John Sergeant gave all the dad dancers hope and Cherie Lunghi had been striking a blow for the older woman (ironic that my favourite older man was responsible for knocking my favourite older woman out), but to hear Len and Arlene go on about John's age you'd think he was practically senile. It's been nasty, obnoxious and makes the idea of having older competitors in this pointless. Why not just say next year, anyone under the age of 35 is banned? You'll have a bland show, but then you won't get to be embarrassed by watching geriatric shuffling either.

I'm not yet sure whether I want to carry on watching this year's SCD. Ironically I thought last week produced the best dancing yet, but I don't want to watch great dancing without seeing John Sergeant's cheeky little face cheering me up every week. I'd have accepted him going out in a vote and the judges getting rid of him in the dance off. But this is the worst of all possible worlds.

And the only one who's come out of it with any dignity is John Sergeant. I hope when he's back from his cruise, he'll also be back on our screens in some other amusing capacity soon.

The nation, deserves a bit of gaiety and it looks like we're not going to get it from SCD anymore.

OTOH, as Marie suggested maybe we should all go for Jodie For The Win. Get phoning peeps!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Oh even MORE crap

So John Sergeant has been pushed out of Strictly for being too old, too rubbish and winning the public's hearts. I appreciate what he's said about it, but bugger it. I think the public should have got to decide who they wanted for the final and the judges should have shut up. Arlene Phillips has been foul this week and I've lost huge amounts of respect for her.

Marie has said it all much better then I can here , but while I sit here steaming, I leave you with my favourite John Sergeant moment of the series.

Who's going next do you think? Cos Jodie sure as hell won't be able to jive but the public love her too...